How Awesome Are Your Deeds
Psalm 66 To The Choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.
1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
4 All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.” Selah
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There did we rejoice in him,
7 who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
8 Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will perform my vows to you,
14 that which my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
17 I cried to him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
19 But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
20 Blessed be God,
because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me!
Make Your Face Shine upon Us
Psalm 67 To The Choirmaster. With Stringed Instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2 that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!
God Shall Scatter His EnemiesPsalm 68 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.
1 God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
and those who hate him shall flee before him!
2 As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;
as wax melts before fire,
so the wicked shall perish before God!
3 But the righteous shall be glad;
they shall exult before God;
they shall be jubilant with joy!
4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!
5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6 God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
7 O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished;
10 your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.
11 The Lord gives the word;
the women who announce the news are a great host:
12 “The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!”
The women at home divide the spoil—
13 though you men lie among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with shimmering gold.
14 When the Almighty scatters kings there,
let snow fall on Zalmon.
15 O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands;
the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
18 You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there.
19 Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation. Selah
20 Our God is a God of salvation,
and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.
21 But God will strike the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
22 The Lord said,
“I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 that you may strike your feet in their blood,
that the tongues of your dogs may have their portion from the foe.”
24 Your procession is seen, O God,
the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
25 the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them virgins playing tambourines:
26 “Bless God in the great congregation,
the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
27 There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in their throng,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
28 Summon your power, O God,
the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings shall bear gifts to you.
30 Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.
31 Nobles shall come from Egypt;
Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.
32 O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord, Selah
33 to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
34 Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.
35 Awesome is God from his sanctuary;
the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
Save Me, O GodPsalm 69 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. Of David.
1 Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
3 I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
4 More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
5 O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord GOD of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.
7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that dishonor has covered my face.
8 I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother’s sons.
9 For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
10 When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting,
it became my reproach.
11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,
I became a byword to them.
12 I am the talk of those who sit in the gate,
and the drunkards make songs about me.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
14 Deliver me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
15 Let not the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the pit close its mouth over me.
16 Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
17 Hide not your face from your servant,
for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
18 Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
ransom me because of my enemies!
19 You know my reproach,
and my shame and my dishonor;
my foes are all known to you.
20 Reproaches have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
and for comforters, but I found none.
21 They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
22 Let their own table before them become a snare;
and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
24 Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
25 May their camp be a desolation;
let no one dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.
27 Add to them punishment upon punishment;
may they have no acquittal from you.
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.
29 But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!
30 I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the LORD more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
35 For God will save Zion
and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
36 the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it.
What I'm Reading
By David Eby 8/1/2009
Click here to go to source THE MISSION OF THE FATHER THE MISSION OF THE SON
How do parents raise children to become servants of Christ no matter what vocation He leads them to choose? Here are some thoughts from an imperfect parent in the form of exhortations to young parents.
First, know your call to stewardship. Parenting is part of biblical stewardship. God has entrusted children to you. They are not really your children; they belong to Christ. You are accountable to your Lord for faithful, not necessarily “successful,” parenting. Parents are pastors and teachers to the church in their home. Children are your congregation. Pastor faithfully with a vision for stewardship.
Second, see your mission clearly. You are training the next generation of laborers, leaders, warriors, and servants for Christ’s bride and the kingdom of grace.
Third, keep the gospel central. Your privilege is to evangelize your children. You’ll have countless opportunities, over many years, even a lifetime. Your message is: “See God’s holy character, see the sin and corruption in your heart and in dad’s and mom’s hearts, and embrace Christ in the gospel, the only hope for sinners.” Keep preaching the gospel of grace to yourself and to your children. It’s the foundation and motivation for everything in life.
Fourth, pray for your child’s true conversion. Never be content with outward Christian conformity. Like you, your child needs radical grace to address radical corruption. Pray for the Spirit’s deep work in the new heart.
Fifth, model servanthood. Let your children see your submission to Christ, your devotion to prayer and reading the Word, your use of time and money, your marriage depending on grace, your commitment to your family and to worship, your love for the church, your hospitality, your passion for world missions, and your compassion for the alien, the poor, and the needy. Indelible learning comes by watching.
Sixth, anticipate many failures and capitalize on them to teach the gospel. Parents are imperfect disciples. Confessing your sins and failures to your children and humbly seeking their forgiveness models the gospel like few things you can ever do.
Seventh, expect great things from grace. God’s grace is greater than parental sins and child sins. God loves to display His grace and power through human weakness.
Eighth, keep praying for your kids after the nest is empty. God is still working. Keep trusting His transforming grace.
Finally, pray for the humanly impossible — the new heart from the Holy Spirit.
Our concert experience reminded us that we live in a world that is shaped by distinct and often disparate music. We are frequently hypnotized by the lyrics of acceptance, achievement, beauty, comfort, pleasure, power, or wealth. We desperately, but always unsuccessfully, try to find our identity and purpose in them. The only song able to contain and direct all our hopes, dreams, longings, and fears is the grand and glorious melody of the gospel. Through the good news of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we not only experience mercy and grace but also discover our mission.
That mission includes living out the future hope of our final redemption in the present. The ascended Christ gives each of us gifts for renewing and reshaping His world according to His resurrection. These gifts are not to be used selfishly or occasionally but purposefully and diligently as we take our place in the orchestra and play our part. We’re to play the song of God’s patient, tender, restorative love to a world in desperate need of repair. We’re to live out the wonder of our salvation in the midst of so much brokenness, suffering, and despair. We’re to be instruments of grace in every relationship and calling, whether it’s as a pastor in Peru, a doctor in India, a lawyer in California, or a student in Florida. Everyone has a role to play in embodying Christ’s love to Christ’s world.
As families, friends, neighbors, employers, and employees, don’t live out the thin, flat, boring ditties of our age. Don’t look to the size of your house, bank account, or waistline for ultimate meaning in life. Instead, find it in Christ and use the gifts He’s given you to play the melody of His amazing love — wherever He places you in His world.
THE MISSION OF THE FATHERMy wife Darlene and I became second-career missionaries to Uganda in 2006 after I pastored in the United States for thirty-four years. God had worked in us a heart for missions, and for Uganda in particular, over many years. The Lord entrusted to us five children who are now grown. What a thrill for us when, in 2007, God led our son Josh and his family to Peru as missionaries.
THE MISSION OF THE SONWe exited the jalopy, paid the cabbie, hurried past the street vendors, and entered the antiquated performing arts center in downtown Trujillo. We found rickety seats toward the front and settled in (sort of) to enjoy Rachmaninov’s Concerto #3 for piano. The conductor took the stage, raised his baton, and the orchestra played a strong opening piece. Then, Abdiel Vazquez, a talented young pianist from Mexico, confidently took his place at the piano. As he played, the grungy walls were filled with weightiness and wonder. He passionately pounded every note, mesmerizing all. We were in a different world for that hour — a world of beauty, majesty, and awe. As we left the concert, we again made our way through the noisy streets and hailed another taxi. The Eagles’ “Desperado” played on the radio. No one listened, though. We were still captivated by Rachmaninov.
Dr. David Eby is dean of Westminster Theological Seminary in Uganda. His son, Rev. Joshua Eby, is pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Presbyteriana in Peru.
The Courage to Be Protestant
By Keith Mathison 8/1/2009
In 1993, David Wells published a book entitled No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? . This book was intended as a wake-up call to an evangelical church that had lost its way, having allowed modernity to replace Scripture as the primary shaper of its thought and practice. This book remains one of the most significant Christian books published in the latter half of the twentieth century. If you know a pastor or seminary student who has not read it, buy it as a gift for them. In his follow-up book, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams , Wells outlines some of the things that will have to be done in order to reverse the situation he described in the first book. In his third volume, Losing Our Virtue , Wells looks at the disintegrating moral culture in America and calls the church to face up to this challenge. The fourth volume in this series of books is entitled Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World by David F Wells (2005-09-15) . In this powerful book, Wells confronts postmodernism with the gospel of Christ. Books by David Wells are listed in the next article.
Wells’ fifth and final volume was originally intended to be a simple summary of the first four volumes. However, as Wells explains, the book took on a life of its own. The Courage to Be Protestant: Reformation Faith in Today's World takes up the main themes of the first four books, summarizing what was taught in those volumes and reassessing the whole project in light of the developments of the last fifteen years.
The evangelical church, according to Wells, is dividing into three distinct constituencies reflected in the book’s title: classical evangelicals (or “truth-lovers”), marketers, and emergents. Classical evangelicalism, of the type that arose in the years following World War II, was characterized by doctrinal seriousness. Sadly, it was gradually beset by two weaknesses — a growing indifference toward truth and toward the local church. As Wells explains, “Christianity became increasingly reduced simply to private, internal, therapeutic experience. Its doctrinal form atrophied and then crumbled” (p. 8).
The church marketers are those who followed the new way of “doing” church developed at Willow Creek Community Church in the mid-1970s. These leaders borrowed the methodology of Madison Avenue, viewing potential church-attendees as the “consumer” and their message as the “product” to be sold.
The “emergent” movement is dissatisfied with classical evangelicalism, believing it to be wedded to modernity. Emergents are postmodern and postconservative. As Wells explains, “Emergents are doctrinal minimalists. They are ecclesiastical free spirits who flit around a much smaller doctrinal center and are often obliging of cultural and generational habits. By their very posture they are resistant to doctrinal structure that would contain and restrict them” (p. 17). Wells argues that both the marketers and the emergents have capitulated in different ways to the prevailing cultural winds. He contends that the key to the future is not capitulation but courage — “the courage to be faithful to what Christianity in its biblical forms has always stood for across the ages” (p. 21).
In pointing out the rampant insanity that has infected evangelicalism, Wells makes a telling point when he points out that he pities satirists. When pastors preach from the pulpit dressed in a Superman costume and when the worship service contains juggling clowns, nothing a satirist can come up with can outdo the sad reality. Ministers who do or allow these kinds of practices and church members who put up with it need to be told in no uncertain terms that this is nothing short of blasphemy. It makes a mockery of God before a world that desperately needs to hear the serious truth of the gospel.
The bulk of The Courage to Be Protestant is devoted to looking again at the truth the evangelical church must proclaim, the truth about truth itself, about God, the self, Jesus Christ, and His church. Our culture has been inundated with relativism, but rather than confronting this self-contradictory nonsense, church marketers try to find ways to sell the church to those who are relativists, while emergents revel in the relativism itself. Rather than tearing down the high places, many evangelicals are content to convert the church into a sanctuary to Baal. We have forgotten that the living God is holy and will not be mocked. We have forgotten the sinfulness of our sin — a sinfulness that required the crucifixion of the Lord of glory. We have traded our birthright, the glorious gospel, for a mess of modern and postmodern pottage. Wells calls all of us to stop and reconsider.
It is a much needed reminder.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.
Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Quitting and Finding Church
By David Wells 8/1/2009
I am in the middle of reading two books simultaneously, one at my office today and the other I will resume at home tonight. My day book is Julia Duin’s Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About It. It is a quick, breezy read, though its subject matter is disconcerting. My night book is actually two volumes that somehow passed me by several years ago. Now I am trying to catch up. This is Iain Murray’s twelve-hundred page biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is a slow read. But if it is slow, perhaps cluttered with too many details, it is nevertheless also deeply satisfying. And this is so not simply because it has conjured up many warm memories of sitting under this extraordinary ministry. I would often walk back to my digs in central London feeling as if I had been renewed enough from that one sermon to last for a lifetime. That aside, this biography is satisfying because here one glimpses a spiritual reality which, flawed as it no doubt was, is something for which people today are yearning and often not finding.
Quitting Church. Duin’s book is a diary of her travels around the evangelical world in which she has recorded the struggles so many recounted to her of trying to live Christianly in the modern world: singles in a highly sexualized culture; people who are perpetual strangers in their own churches; the inability to find answers to life’s most distressing issues such as loneliness, a sense of being connected to nothing; deep dismay over “churchianity,” the superficial Christian subculture that has grown up in the last thirty years; and a faith that is easily consumed but has lost its depth and ability to speak into today’s pains and perplexities. The result is that by the droves, though not everyone and not everywhere, the born-again are dropping out of church because, she says, it has become “too banal, boring, or painful.”
No doubt, some of this is due to the (immature) expectations people bring with them as consumers into church — but haven’t we often pitched Christian faith to them in exactly these terms? As consumers, though, they have not had their every need met and so they leave or continue circulating from one church to another. But I also wonder if many of those who have left, or are circulating, don’t also have a point sometimes. There are too many churches that have created an environment, or a set of expectations, in which God rests inconsequentially on those who come. The result is, as I argued in God in the Wasteland, that now “his truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common” (p. 30).
Finding Church. In the 1940s and 50s, when Lloyd-Jones was emerging as the preeminent preacher in England, life was not easy either. At the beginning of this period the War was still in full swing. Bombs fell every night on London. Westminster Chapel itself was damaged. On one occasion, bombs fell on an adjoining property while he was praying — but he went on without skipping a beat! There was rationing, travel was difficult and hazardous, ordinary citizens were being killed, and evangelicals were a despised minority. Liberalism was at its peak but evangelicals had none of their own literature or much organization. However, these circumstances, quite as difficult as anything we encounter today in America, did not hinder this profound ministry from coming into glorious bloom.
For six years during the 1960s, I attended Westminster Chapel twice a week. I only went to hear the preaching because I was a part of another church. But it was in those six years that I was deeply transformed. The preaching was magnificent, the prayers lifted one into the heavens, the mind was fed, the imagination was fired, and the will was moved. Yet all of this taken together is not the full answer as to what happened to me during this time. When I went there, I came face to face with God in all of His greatness. I encountered — or, rather, was encountered by — not just an idea, not just a sermon, but by God Himself, in and through that worship with its focus in the sermon.
It is tempting now to think back on this and ask what Lloyd-Jones’ secret was. What was his technique? What programs can we borrow from his time and recreate for our own if we are looking for the same outcomes? Alas, we are barking up the wrong tree. God cannot be packaged. He is not a rabbit that can be pulled out of the magician’s hat on cue.
First Corinthians 1–4, Lloyd-Jones thought, is the most important section of Scripture on preaching. Preaching appears to be stupid, both in the message it delivers regarding Christ, but also in its act. Inconceivable as it may seem, preaching is the ordained means of the church’s blessing and nurture. God, Luther said, lives in the preacher’s mouth.
We who worship and we who preach really do need to humble ourselves before God and ask for a restoration in our country of the kind of preaching that He can really use. If God does not visit us afresh in this regard, I am afraid that our “churchianity” will continue unabated and there will be many who genuinely are asking for something better who will not be able to find it.
Dr. David F. Wells is distinguished research professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.
David Wells Books:
- 1 Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision
- 2 God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams
- 3 Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World
- 4 No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
- 5 Minister's Service Book: For Pulpit and Parish
- 6 God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World
- 7 The Courage to Be Protestant: Reformation Faith in Today's World
- 8 Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
- 9 The Princeton Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 10 Southern Reformed Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 11 Dutch Reformed Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 12 The Evangelicals: What they believe, who they are, where they are changing
- 13 Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural
- 14 Revolution in Rome
- 15 What Is the Trinity? (Basics of the Faith)
- 16 Christian Faith and Practice in the Modern World: Theology from an Evangelical Point of View
- 17 The Person of Christ: A Biblical and Historical Analysis of the Incarnation (Foundations for faith)
- 18 GOD THE EVANGELIST how the Holy Spirit works to bring men and women to faith
- 19 The Search for Salvation:
- 20 Gospel in the Modern World: A Tribute to John Stott
- 21 Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural by David F. Wells (2012-04-12)
- 22 Prophetic Theology of George Tyrrell (Studies in Religion)
The Sovereignty of God (Ps. 119:89)
A.W. Pink from The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross
"And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" Luke 23:42, 43 (Is 53:12) 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, (Ps 119:89) 89 Forever, O LORD, your word Why did God order it that his beloved Son should be crucified between two criminals? Certainly God had a reason; a good one, a manifold one, whether we can discern it or not. God never acts arbitrarily. He has a good purpose for everything he does, for all his works are ordered by infinite wisdom. In this particular instance a number of answers suggest themselves to our inquiry. Was not our blessed Lord crucified with the two thieves to fully demonstrate the unfathomable depths of shame into which he had descended? At his birth he was surrounded by the beasts of the field, and now, at his death, he is numbered with the refuse of humanity.
THE SECOND OF CHRIST’S cross-utterances was spoken in response to the request of the dying thief. Ere considering the words of the Saviour we shall first ponder what occasioned them.
It was no accident that the Lord of glory was crucified between two thieves. There are no accidents in a world that is governed by God. Much less could there have been any accident on that day of days, or in connection with that event of all events - a day and an event which lie at the very centre of the world’s history. No, God was presiding over that scene. From all eternity he had decreed when and where and how and with whom his Son should die. Nothing was left to chance or the caprice of man. All that God had decreed came to pass exactly as he had ordained, and nothing happened save as he had eternally purposed. Whatsoever man did was simply that which God’s hand and counsel "determined to be done" (Acts 4:28).
(Ac 4:28) 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. ESV
When Pilate gave orders that the Lord Jesus should be crucified between the two malefactors, all unknown to himself, he was but putting into execution the eternal decree of God and fulfilling his prophetic word. Seven hundred years before this Roman officer gave his command, God had declared through Isaiah that his Son should be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isa. 53:12). How utterly unlikely this appeared, that the Holy One of God should be numbered with the unholy; that the very one whose finger had inscribed on the tables of stone the Sinaitic Law should be assigned a place with the lawless; that the Son of God should be executed with criminals - this seemed utterly inconceivable. Yet, it actually came to pass. Not a single word of God can fall to the ground. "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Ps. 119:89). Just as God had ordained, and just as he had announced, so it came to pass.
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. ESV
is firmly fixed in the heavens. ESV
Again, was not the Saviour numbered with transgressors to show us the position he occupied as our substitute? He had taken the place which was due us, and what was that but the place of shame, the place of transgressors, the place of criminals condemned to death!
Again, was he not deliberately humiliated thus by Pilate to exhibit man’s estimate of the peerless one - "despised" as well as rejected!
Again, was he not crucified with the two thieves, so that in those three crosses and the ones who hung upon them we might have a vivid and concrete representation of the drama of salvation and man’s response thereto - the Saviour’s redemption; the sinner repenting and believing; and the sinner reviling and rejecting?
Another important lesson which we may learn from the crucifixion of Christ between the two thieves, and the fact that one received him and the other rejected him, is that of the sovereignty of God. The two malefactors were crucified together. They were equally near to Christ. Both of them saw and heard all that transpired during those fateful six hours. Both were notoriously wicked; both were suffering acutely; both were dying, and both urgently needed forgiveness. Yet one of them died in his sins, died as he had lived - hardened and impenitent; while the other repented of his wickedness, believed in Christ, called on him for mercy and went to Paradise. How can this be accounted for except by the sovereignty of God!
We see precisely the same thing going on today. Under exactly the same circumstances and conditions, one is melted and another remains unmoved. Under the same sermon one man will listen with indifference, while another will have his eyes opened to see his need and his will moved to close with God’s offer of mercy. To one the gospel is revealed, to another it is "hidden". Why? All we can say is, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." And yet God’s sovereignty is never meant to destroy human responsibility. Both are plainly taught in the Bible, and it is our business to believe and preach both whether we can harmonize or understand them or not. In preaching both we may seem to our hearers to contradict ourselves, but what matters that?
Said the late C H Spurgeon, when preaching on 1 Timothy 2:3, 4, "There stands the text, and I believe that it is my Father’s wish that "All men should be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth". But! know, also, that he does not will it, so that he will save any one of them, unless they believe in his Son; for he has told us over and over again that he will not. He will not save any man except he forsakes his sins, and turns to him with full purpose of heart: that I also know. And I know, also, that he has a people whom he will save, whom by his eternal love he has chosen and whom by his eternal power he will deliver. I do not know how that squares with this, that is another of the things I do not know." And said this prince of preachers, "I will just stand to what I ever shall and always have preached, and take God’s word as it stands, whether I can reconcile it with another part of God’s word or not."
(1 Ti 2:3–4) 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ESV
We say again, God’s sovereignty is never meant to destroy man’s responsibility. We are to make diligent use of all the means which God has appointed for the salvation of souls. We are bidden to preach the gospel to "every creature". Grace is free; the invitation is broad enough to take in "whosoever believeth". Christ turns away none who come to him. Yet, after we have done all, after we have planted and watered, it is God who "giveth the increase", and this he does as best pleaseth his sovereign will.
In the salvation of the dying thief we have a clear view of victorious grace such as is to be found nowhere else in the Bible. God is the God of all grace, and salvation is entirely by his grace. "By grace are ye saved" (Eph. 2:8), and it is "by grace" from beginning to end. Grace planned salvation, grace provided salvation, and grace so works on and in his elect as to overcome the hardness of their hearts, the obstinacy of their wills, and the enmity of their minds, and thus makes them willing to receive salvation. Grace begins, grace continues, and grace consummates our salvation.
(Eph 2:8) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, ESV
Salvation by grace - sovereign, irresistible, free grace - is illustrated in the New Testament by example as well as precept. Perhaps the two most striking cases of all are those of Saul of Tarsus and the Dying Robber. And the case of the latter is even more noteworthy than the former. In the case of Saul, who afterwards became Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, there was an exemplary moral character to begin with. Writing years afterwards of his condition before his conversion, the apostle declared that as touching the righteousness of the law he was "blameless" (Phil. 3:6). He was a "Pharisee of the Pharisees": punctilious in his habits, correct in his deportment. Morally, his character was flawless. After his conversion his life was one of gospel-righteousness. Constrained by the love of Christ he spent himself in preaching the gospel to sinners and in labouring to buildup the saints. Doubtless our readers will agree with us when we say that probably Paul came nearest to attaining the ideals of the Christian life, and that he followed after his Master more closely than any other saint has since.
(Php 3:6) 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. ESV
But with the saved thief it was far otherwise. He had no moral life before his conversion and no life of active service after it. Before his conversion he respected neither the law of God nor the law of man. After his conversion he died without having opportunity to engage in the service of Christ. I would emphasize this, because these are the two things which are regarded by so many as contributing factors to our salvation. It is supposed that we must first fit ourselves by developing a noble character before God will receive us as his sons; and that after he has received us, tentatively, we are merely placed on probation, and that unless we now bring forth a certain quality and quantity of good works we shall "fall from grace and be lost". But the dying thief had no good works either before or after conversion. Hence we are shut up to the conclusion that if saved at all he was certainly saved by sovereign grace.
(Is 53:12) 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
(Ps 119:89) 89 Forever, O LORD, your word
Why did God order it that his beloved Son should be crucified between two criminals? Certainly God had a reason; a good one, a manifold one, whether we can discern it or not. God never acts arbitrarily. He has a good purpose for everything he does, for all his works are ordered by infinite wisdom. In this particular instance a number of answers suggest themselves to our inquiry. Was not our blessed Lord crucified with the two thieves to fully demonstrate the unfathomable depths of shame into which he had descended? At his birth he was surrounded by the beasts of the field, and now, at his death, he is numbered with the refuse of humanity.
Money, Money, Money
By Gene Edward Veith 8/1/2009
Not long ago, I learned that thirty-eight percent of my retirement account has vanished and that my house is suddenly worth less than the mortgage I am paying on it. I wasn’t wasteful or reckless. I didn’t vandalize my own home or spend my life’s savings on riotous living. But all of a sudden, through no particular fault of my own, a major part of my stash of money (small though it was) simply disappeared.
This did not just happen to me, of course, but to virtually all Americans and to virtually everyone else in the world. The economic downturn — or collapse, recession, crisis, call it what you will — took us all by surprise.
We were enjoying unprecedented wealth and prosperity. Then, unexpectedly, the stock market crashed, financial institutions folded, and ordinary Americans defaulted on their homes and lost their jobs.
Wealth had always seemed solid, tangible, and practical. We assumed we were storing our money in the bank, envisioning perhaps the old comic books of Scrooge McDuck with his Money Bin piled to the ceiling with dollar bills and quarters. A concern for money was “materialistic,” as if money were material. We spoke of “real estate,” as if our estate were real.
If we didn’t have enough of the so-called “hard” cash to buy what we wanted, we could borrow it. So we bought hard material objects by means of plastic, using illusory money as if we would never have to pay it back.
Well, pretty much the whole country did this, and now the house of cards has collapsed. Ironically, to fix the economy, to put us back where we were, our government is injecting money back into the system, doing so by borrowing it, indulging in deficit spending, and cranking out more illusory money.
I am not an economist or the son of an economist. I offer no opinion here about the gold standard or fiat money. We can learn, though, that treasures on earth are not substantial, permanent, or reliable. We should have known that from Jesus (Matt. 6:19).
So how are Christians to think of money? Jesus also informs us that we cannot serve God and money (v. 24). “Serving” money turns it upside down. Money has to do with serving our neighbors. This is to approach economics in terms of the Reformation doctrine of vocation.
According to that teaching, which is essential to any theology of culture, God in His providential governing of the world works through human beings. He gives us this day our daily bread by means of farmers, bakers, grocers, and the hands that prepared our meal. For all of this we thank God in our prayers because He blesses and serves us through all of these different vocations.
And God works through our vocations to bless and serve others. God did not design for us to be completely independent. His will is for human beings to be dependent on each other. We depend on others to grow our food, build our houses, and manufacture our clothing. And others depend on what we do for them.
One might say, “This is just the division of labor. It’s simple economics.” That is true. But it is God’s design for human community. It is the doctrine of vocation.
Money is the means of exchange. I exchange a portion of my labor for a portion of my neighbor’s labor. This is called buying and selling. Money symbolizes the value that we place on each other’s labor. Not that money is of God in the same way that vocation is of God. Money is a human convention. It reflects how we ourselves and our society value different work, not how God values it.
For example, we value great athletes and movie stars to an exorbitant degree. Because so many of us will contribute a fraction of the value of our labor, they get paid millions of dollars. The man who picks up our garbage gets paid much, much less. Arguably, though, the people who clean up after us provide a service that is much more important to our lives than the people who entertain us. Yet we look up to the entertainers and lavish them with our money, and we often look down on those who work harder and for less. God, though, honors all those who present their bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), thus exercising the holy priesthood in their vocations.
Those vocations go beyond the workplace. The word “economy” comes from the Latin word for “household.” The Reformers said that we have vocations in the three “estates” that God has founded: the church, the state, and the household, which refers primarily to the family and then to the workplace (thus, “economy”).
It is fitting, therefore, that part of our labor — our money — goes for our obligations in our other vocations in the state and in the church. We have a vocation to be a good citizen, so we pay our taxes (Rom. 13:6–7). We have a vocation in our congregations, so we bring our offerings (2 Cor. 9:5–7).
As we live out our faith in our vocation — loving and serving our neighbors in our families, our workplaces, our churches, and our country — we “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19–20).
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books:
- 1 God at Work (Redesign): Your Christian Vocation in All of Life
- 2 Spirituality of the Cross Revised Edition
- 3 Loving God with All Your Mind: Thinking as a Christian in the Postmodern World
- 4 Family Vocation: God's Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood
- 5 Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview (Concordia Scholarship Today)
- 6 Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life
- 7 Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture
- 8 State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe
- 9 Reading Between the Lines (Redesign): A Christian Guide to Literature (Turning Point Christian Worldview Series)
- 10 Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind
Deut. 30; Psalm 119:73-96; Isaiah 57; Matthew 5
By Don Carson 6/25/2018
In its unfolding reflections on God and his revelation, Psalm 119 is unsurpassed. Here I shall focus on three themes that surface in Psalm 119:89-96.
(1) God’s revelatory word, that word that has been inscripturated (i.e., written down to become Scripture) is not something that God made up as he went along, as if he did not understand or could not predict exactly how things were going to pan out. Far from it: “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89). It was always there, eternal, in his mind. That is one of the reasons why he can be trusted absolutely: he is never caught out, never surprised. Because God’s word stands firm in the heaven, the psalmist can add, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations” (Ps. 119:90).
(2) There is a connection between the word of revelation and the word of creation and of providence. Thus the first line of verse 90, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations,” is tied to what precedes (end of v. 89) and to what succeeds (end of v. 90). God’s faithfulness through all generations is grounded, as we have seen, in the fact that God’s word stands firm in the heavens, but it is also grounded in God’s creative and providential work: “you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you” (Ps. 119:90-91). The same omniscient, ordering, reflective mind stands behind both creation and revelation.
(3) Far from being oppressive and limiting, the instruction of God is freeing and illuminating. “To all perfection I see a limit,” the psalmist writes; “but your commands are boundless” (Ps. 119:96). All human, earthly enterprises face limits. There are limitations on resources, on time, on the expanse of life that we may devote to such enterprises. Only so much time can be devoted to even the most sublime exercise. The limits themselves become frustrating barriers. More than one commentator has noted that this verse is almost a two-line summary of Ecclesiastes. There, every enterprise “under the sun” runs its race and expires, or proves unsatisfying and transient. In our experience there is but one exception: “your commands are boundless” (Ps. 119:96).
This includes more than the well-known paradox: slavery to God is perfect freedom. For a start, freedom must be defined. If our steps are directed to God’s word, there is freedom from sin (cf. Ps. 119:133); observance of God’s “precepts” is tied to walking about in “freedom” (Ps. 119:45). Moreover, reflection on and conformity with God’s words generates not narrow-minded bigotry, but a largeness of spirit that potentially stretches outward to the farthest dimensions of the mind of God; for “your commands are boundless.”
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 68God Shall Scatter His Enemies
68 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.
24 Your procession is seen, O God,
the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
25 the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them virgins playing tambourines:
26 “Bless God in the great congregation,
the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”
27 There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in their throng,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
28 Summon your power, O God,
the power, O God, by which you have worked for us.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings shall bear gifts to you.
30 Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.
31 Nobles shall come from Egypt;
Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
12. The sacraments are confirmations of our faith in such a sense, that
the Lord, sometimes, when he sees meet to withdraw our assurance of the
things which he had promised in the sacraments, takes away the
sacraments themselves. When he deprives Adam of the gift of
immortality, and expels him from the garden, "lest he put forth his
hand and take also of the tree of life, and live for ever" (Gen. 3:22).
What is this we hear? Could that fruit have restored Adam to the
immortality from which he had already fallen? By no means. It is just
as if he had said, Lest he indulge in vain confidence, if allowed to
retain the symbol of my promise, let that be withdrawn which might give
him some hope of immortality. On this ground, when the apostle urges
the Ephesians to remember, that they "were without Christ, being aliens
from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of
promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12), he
says that they were not partakers of circumcision. He thus intimates
metonymically, that all were excluded from the promise who had not
received the badge of the promise. To the other objection--viz. that
when so much power is attributed to creatures, the glory of God is
bestowed upon them, and thereby impaired--it is obvious to reply, that
we attribute no power to the creatures. All we say is, that God uses
the means and instruments which he sees to be expedient, in order that
all things may be subservient to his glory, he being the Lord and
disposer of all. Therefore, as by bread and other aliment he feeds our
bodies, as by the sun he illumines, and by fire gives warmth to the
world, and yet bread, sun, and fire are nothing, save inasmuch as they
are instruments under which he dispenses his blessings to us; so in
like manner he spiritually nourishes our faith by means of the
sacraments, whose only office is to make his promises visible to our
eye, or rather, to be pledges of his promises. And as it is our duty in
regard to the other creatures which the divine liberality and kindness
has destined for our use, and by whose instrumentality he bestows the
gifts of his goodness upon us, to put no confidence in them, nor to
admire and extol them as the causes of our mercies; so neither ought
our confidence to be fixed on the sacraments, nor ought the glory of
God to be transferred to them, but passing beyond them all, our faith
and confession should rise to Him who is the Author of the sacraments
and of all things.
13. There is nothing in the argument which some found on the very term sacrament. This term, they say, while it has many significations in approved authors, has only one which is applicable to signs--namely, when it is used for the formal oath which the soldier gives to his commander on entering the service. For as by that military oath recruits bind themselves to be faithful to their commander, and make a profession of military service; so by our signs we acknowledge Christ to be our commander, and declare that we serve under his standard. They add similitudes, in order to make the matter more clear. As the toga distinguished the Romans from the Greeks, who wore the pallium; and as the different orders of Romans were distinguished from each other by their peculiar insignia; e. g., the senatorial from the equestrian by purple, and crescent shoes, and the equestrian from the plebeian by a ring, so we wear our symbols to distinguish us from the profane. But it is sufficiently clear from what has been said above, that the ancients, in giving the name of sacraments to signs, had not at all attended to the use of the term by Latin writers, but had, for the sake of convenience, given it this new signification, as a means of simply expressing sacred signs. But were we to argue more subtilely, we might say that they seem to have given the term this signification in a manner analogous to that in which they employ the term faith in the sense in which it is now used. For while faith is truth in performing promises, they have used it for the certainty or firm persuasion which is had of the truth. In this way, while a sacrament is the act of the soldier when he vows obedience to his commander, they made it the act by which the commander admits soldiers to the ranks. For in the sacraments the Lord promises that he will be our God, and we that we will be his people. But we omit such subtleties, since I think I have shown by arguments abundantly plain, that all which ancient writers intended was to intimate, that sacraments are the signs of sacred and spiritual things. The similitudes which are drawn from external objects (chap. 15 sec. 1), we indeed admit; but we approve not, that that which is a secondary thing in sacraments is by them made the first, and indeed the only thing. The first thing is, that they may contribute to our faith in God; the secondary, that they may attest our confession before men. These similitudes are applicable to the secondary reason. Let it therefore remain a fixed point, that mysteries would be frigid (as has been seen) were they not helps to our faith, and adjuncts annexed to doctrine for the same end and purpose.
14. On the other hand, it is to be observed, that as these objectors impair the force, and altogether overthrow the use of the sacraments, so there are others who ascribe to the sacraments a kind of secret virtue, which is nowhere said to have been implanted in them by God. By this error the more simple and unwary are perilously deceived, while they are taught to seek the gifts of God where they cannot possibly be found, and are insensibly withdrawn from God, so as to embrace instead of his truth mere vanity. For the schools of the Sophists have taught with general consent that the sacraments of the new law, in other words, those now in use in the Christian Church, justify, and confer grace, provided only that we do not interpose the obstacle of mortal sin. It is impossible to describe how fatal and pestilential this sentiment is, and the more so, that for many ages it has, to the great loss of the Church, prevailed over a considerable part of the world. It is plainly of the devil: for, first, in promising a righteousness without faith, it drives souls headlong on destruction; secondly, in deriving a cause of righteousness from the sacraments, it entangles miserable minds, already of their own accord too much inclined to the earth, in a superstitious idea, which makes them acquiesce in the spectacle of a corporeal object rather than in God himself. I wish we had not such experience of both evils as to make it altogether unnecessary to give a lengthened proof of them. For what is a sacrament received without faith, but most certain destruction to the Church? For, seeing that nothing is to be expected beyond the promise, and the promise no less denounces wrath to the unbeliever than offers grace to the believer, it is an error to suppose that anything more is conferred by the sacraments than is offered by the word of God, and obtained by true faith. From this another thing follows--viz. that assurance of salvation does not depend on participation in the sacraments, as if justification consisted in it. This, which is treasured up in Christ alone, we know to be communicated, not less by the preaching of the Gospel than by the seal of the sacrament, and may be completely enjoyed without this seal. So true is it, as Augustine declares, that there may be invisible sanctification without a visible sign, and, on the other hand, a visible sign without true sanctification (August. de Quæst. Vet. Test. Lib. 3). For, as he elsewhere says, "Men put on Christ, sometimes to the extent of partaking in the sacrament, and sometimes to the extent of holiness of life" (August. de Bapt. Cont. Donat. cap. 24). The former may be common to the good and the bad, the latter is peculiar to the good.
15. Hence the distinction, if properly understood, repeatedly made by Augustine between the sacrament and the matter of the sacrament. For he does not mean merely that the figure and truth are therein contained, but that they do not so cohere as not to be separable, and that in this connection it is always necessary to distinguish the thing from the sign, so as not to transfer to the one what belongs to the other.  Augustine speaks of the separation when he says that in the elect alone the sacraments accomplish what they represent (Augustin. de Bapt. Parvul.). Again, when speaking of the Jews, he says, "Though the sacraments were common to all, the grace was not common: yet grace is the virtue of the sacraments. Thus, too, the laver of regeneration is now common to all, but the grace by which the members of Christ are regenerated with their head is not common to all" (August. in Ps. 78). Again, in another place, speaking of the Lord's Supper, he says, "We also this day receive visible food; but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another. Why is it that many partake of the altar and die, and die by partaking? For even the cup of the Lord was poison to Judas, not because he received what was evil, but being wicked he wickedly received what was good" (August. in Joann. Hom. 26). A little after, he says, "The sacrament of this thing, that is, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, is in some places prepared every day, in others at certain intervals at the Lord's table, which is partaken by some unto life, by others unto destruction. But the thing itself, of which there is a sacrament, is life to all, and destruction to none who partake of it." Some time before he had said, "He who may have eaten shall not die, but he must be one who attains to the virtue of the sacrament, not to the visible sacrament; who eats inwardly, not outwardly; who eats with the heart, and not with the teeth." Here you are uniformly told that a sacrament is so separated from the reality by the unworthiness of the partaker, that nothing remains but an empty and useless figure. Now, in order that you may have not a sign devoid of truth, but the thing with the sign, the Word which is included in it must be apprehended by faith. Thus, in so far as by means of the sacraments you will profit in the communion of Christ, will you derive advantage from them.
16. If this is obscure from brevity, I will explain it more at length. I say that Christ is the matter, or, if you rather choose it, the substance of all the sacraments, since in him they have their whole solidity, and out of him promise nothing. Hence the less toleration is due to the error of Peter Lombard, who distinctly makes them causes of the righteousness and salvation of which they are parts (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 1). Bidding adieu to all other causes of righteousness which the wit of man devises, our duty is to hold by this only. In so far, therefore, as we are assisted by their instrumentality in cherishing, confirming, and increasing the true knowledge of Christ, so as both to possess him more fully, and enjoy him in all his richness, so far are they effectual in regard to us. This is the case when that which is there offered is received by us in true faith. Therefore, you will ask, Do the wicked, by their ingratitude, make the ordinance of God fruitless and void? I answer, that what I have said is not to be understood as if the power and truth of the sacrament depended on the condition or pleasure of him who receives it. That which God instituted continues firm, and retains its nature, however men may vary; but since it is one thing to offer, and another to receive, there is nothing to prevent a symbol, consecrated by the word of the Lord, from being truly what it is said to be, and preserving its power, though it may at the same time confer no benefit on the wicked and ungodly. This question is well solved by Augustine in a few words: "If you receive carnally, it ceases not to be spiritual, but it is not spiritual to you" (August. Hom. in Joann. 26). But as Augustine shows in the above passages that a sacrament is a thing of no value if separated from its truth; so also, when the two are conjoined, he reminds us that it is necessary to distinguish, in order that we may not cleave too much to the external sign. "As it is servile weakness to follow the latter, and take the signs for the thing signified, so to interpret the signs as of no use is an extravagant error" (August. de Doct. Christ. Lib. 3 c. 9). He mentions two faults which are here to be avoided; the one when we receive the signs as if they had been given in vain, and by malignantly destroying or impairing their secret meanings, prevent them from yielding any fruit--the other, when by not raising our minds beyond the visible sign, we attribute to it blessings which are conferred upon us by Christ alone, and that by means of the Holy Spirit, who makes us to be partakers of Christ, external signs assisting if they invite us to Christ; whereas, when wrested to any other purpose, their whole utility is overthrown.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/1/2012 Where East Meets West
I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard, “I believe there’s a little bad in all that’s good and a little good in all that’s bad.” The problem is not the number of times I’ve heard this but that I’ve heard it most often from professing Christians. While I assume most are unaware, the statement is deeply rooted in Eastern mysticism and strikes against the very heart of the Christian faith, which asserts unequivocally that our triune God is altogether righteous and the sovereign Judge over all that’s evil.
The Yin-Yang (yīnyáng) philosophy of Taoism espouses that there are opposing but interconnected forces of light and dark, good and evil, that compose and govern the universe. The dualistic interaction of these two Feng Shui (fŭng shwā) forces creates the essence of an enlightened life; thus, we must seek to bring balanced harmony in all of life through various means, such as yoga, focused breathing (prāṇāyāma), Feng-Shui-designed living spaces, and calming colors, sounds, and scents.
In the West, we have embraced a syncretized hybrid form of Eastern spirituality, yielding a seemingly more innocent form of mysticism but, in reality, a more deceptive and, thus, far more dangerous form. We have not only syncretized Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, we have thrown Christianity into the mix, attempting to make ourselves seem more culturally enlightened and less narrowly biblically intolerant. While all this may come as news to some, Eastern mysticism is rapidly, yet subtly, spreading through the heartland of America, and it is absolutely essential that we begin to recognize the danger Eastern mysticism poses.
If all this seems a bit far-fetched, I offer the following examples of the infiltration of Eastern mysticism into our society and, more to the point, our churches. Not long ago, a woman from America’s Bible-belt proudly informed me she was a Christian-Buddhist. I recently heard of a Christian preschool teacher leading her class in breathing meditation exercises as the children repeat the sound Buddhist monks echo when in prayer. A few years ago, a teacher in a conservative Reformed congregation was instructing his high school students about the principle of Yin-Yang, drawing for them the symbol of the Tao on the whiteboard. Just last week, I learned that the fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism went on a speaking tour of America’s schools last spring.
Eastern spirituality is no longer merely in the East. It has made its way to our shores and is creeping its way into our homes through Hollywood and may soon be in our pulpits. We must be on guard and ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, the only hope for the world—not that we become enlightened gods but that the Son of God took on a human nature and lived and died for us that we might live forever.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The Korean War started this day, June 25, 1950, when communist North Korean’s invaded South Korea, killing tens of thousands within the first weeks. General Douglas MacArthur was placed in command of the U.N. Forces and quickly turned the war by a daring landing of troops at Inchon and recapturing the city of Seoul. Politicians limited the military from pursuing victory and the war drug on three years with millions of casualties. General MacArthur stated: “History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I have never understood
why it should be considered derogatory
to the Creator to suppose
that he has a sense of humor.
--- William Ralph Inge
Quotes for the Journey, Wisdom for the Way
Unbelief queries the will of God, and questions whether He will now be gracious, though He has been so formerly. If troubles or dangers grow to a height and we see nothing but ruin and misery in the eye of reason before us, now unbelief becomes importunate and troublesome to the soul. Now where are your prayers, your hopes, yea, where is now your God?” “Unbelief maintains the impossibility of relief in deep distresses. ‘Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? … Can he give bread also? Can he provide flesh for his people?’ Psalm 78:19-20. Oh vile and unworthy thoughts of God which proceed from our measuring the immense and boundless power of God by our own line and measure … because we do not see which way relief should come.
--- John Flavel
The Whole Works Of John Flavel: Late Minister Of The Gospel At Dartmouth, Devon, Volume 1...
Someone cried, “Where must the seed be sown to bring the most fruit when it is grown?”
The Master heard as He said and smiled, “Go plant it for Me in the heart of a child.”
Bread for each day ; 365 devotional meditations
We were born to die and we die to live. As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven. --- Russell M. Nelson
Mourning in the Mountains
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 14 / R. Samuel David Luzzatto on
“You Shall Love”
Samuel David Luzzatto, popularly known by his acronym, Shadal, was a distinguished early nineteenth-century Italian thinker and exegete whose scholarship was unimpeachable and, in keeping with the Italian tradition, was open to the intellectual and cultural currents of his time. Shadal focuses on our verse, “You shall love the Lord your God,” to criticize the rationalist school of Jewish thinkers. In so doing, he sheds additional light on the concept of ahavat Hashem.
Shadal begins his critique by challenging the interpretation of ahavat Hashem by R. Baḥya, one of the pioneers of Jewish philosophy in the Middle Ages and a man widely revered for his exemplary piety and humanity. For Baḥya, the soul is a simple (i.e., noncomplex) non-material substance that naturally inclines us toward the spiritual. When it is illuminated by the intellect, it strives to serve and obey God (who is utterly spiritual), throwing off the shackles of this world and its illusory pleasures.
Shadal objects to this interpretation not because of any anti-rationalistic bias as such, but because he rejects the ascetic element so prominent in Baḥya’s thinking. Indeed, Baḥya’s rationalism was accompanied by, and probably resulted in, a degree of asceticism as well as elitism. Because, according to Baḥya, a high level of reasoning is required to “know God” rationally and philosophically, the masses find it difficult both to know God and, derivatively, to love Him—for, as Baḥya avers, it is the intellect that draws the soul to God and evokes love. Moreover, Baḥya’s rationalism posits an inverse relationship between body and soul, matter and spirit; as one ascends, the other descends. Thus, to arrive at a higher spiritual-intellectual plane, one must neglect, even disdain, the body. Shadal considers this ascetic attitude un-Jewish, a stance borrowed from those philosophers (probably referring to the Sufi influence on Baḥya) who look down upon the masses who toil in the daily chores of civilization. The Torah, Shadal maintains, encourages yishuvo shel olam, the advancement of civilization. Therefore, neither the love nor the service of God can or ought to be performed in isolation from the world but within society where, and where alone, the principles of justice and righteousness can be realized.
Maimonides, too, comes in for his share of criticism by Shadal. In his philosophic work, (1) Maimonides writes that ahavat Hashem is unattainable except through a correct perception of reality and the divine wisdom that it reveals. Maimonides, therefore, found it necessary to include the rudiments of the science of his day in his legal code, the Mishneh Torah. (2) Shadal considers this attitude, too, as remote from the Torah’s view, and he regards these particular chapters as incongruous with the rest of the Mishneh Torah. Had Maimonides been a “true philosopher,” he writes rather boldly, he would have anticipated that the advance of human civilization and knowledge would supersede the views of Aristotle on natural science and astronomy, making them obsolete. By linking his philosophy in the Guide to Aristotelian thought, Maimonides thereby undercuts the validity of his whole system. Shadal declares that though he means no disrespect for Maimonides, he feels obliged to warn the younger generation to think critically and independently, and not rely on contemporary or earlier thinkers merely because they are popular and widely accepted—or because they came earlier in history. The true philosopher, concludes Shadal, relies not on Aristotle or Leibnitz, not on Kant or Hegel or Spinoza, but on Abraham and Moses, on Hillel and R. Akiva.
(1) Guide for the Perplexed, 3:28.
(2) Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, chapters 2–4.
This does not mean, Shadal adds, that he intends to dissuade his readers or students from secular studies, what we sometimes call Madda or general culture, for that “never occurred to my fathers and teachers who were the sages of Italy”; he simply wishes to encourage them to use their critical faculties and to think twice before accepting conventional wisdom. Those who follow the intellectual fads of the day, the “politically correct” attitudes, reveal that they are more interested in honors and in ingratiating themselves with their contemporaries than in searching for the truth.
Shadal reserves his greatest venom for Moses Mendelssohn, the leading philosopher of the Enlightenment, who wrote in the Be’ur, his commentary on the Bible, the following apparently innocuous comment on our verse, “You shall love the Lord your God”:
Be happy in your knowledge of His endless perfection, and revel in His faithfulness and oneness, and [your readiness] to do what is good in His eyes—for such is the nature of love.
At first blush there seems nothing exceptionable in this remark. Indeed, it could have been lifted out of the writings of many of the more rationalist Sephardic Rishonim. But Shadal seizes upon this statement as representative of the whole rationalist school and therefore worthy of vigorous refutation. He sees this teaching as an inadmissible amalgam of Greek rationalism and authentic Jewish teaching. Thus, he identifies an inner inconsistency: the first part—“be happy … endless perfection”—exemplifies the Greek rationalist approach; the second, “do what is good in His eyes,” properly reflects the Jewish spirit.
What is wrong with such a hybrid approach? Shadal maintains that it results in neither philosophy nor Torah. In this particular comment by Mendelssohn, he finds a striking example of this inner contradiction. For if we accept this philosophical (i.e., rationalist) interpretation, we are forced to take a deistic position, according to which God is uninterested in human affairs; for One who is perfect and whose perfection serves no other end save its own is totally self-involved and introverted, a kind of catatonic deity. Moreover, because a deistic framework allows for no relationship or interaction between God and man, everything must be predetermined. In such a totally fatalistic universe, man plays no active role, a view obviously contrary to Torah. Such an outlook leaves no room at all for the genuinely Jewish idea that man should seek to please God by obeying Him. Thus, the first part of Mendelssohn’s teaching vitiates the closing clause—that love of God requires that we seek to do that which is pleasing in His eyes.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Herod By Caesars Direction Accuses His Sons At Eurytus. They Are Not Produced Before The Courts But Yet Are Condemned; And In A Little Time They Are Sent To Sebaste, And Strangled There.
1. Moreover, Salome exasperated Herod's cruelty against his sons; for Aristobulus was desirous to bring her, who was his mother-in-law and his aunt, into the like dangers with themselves; so he sent to her to take care of her own safety, and told her that the king was preparing to put her to death, on account of the accusation that was laid against her, as if when she formerly endeavored to marry herself to Sylleus the Arabian, she had discovered the king's grand secrets to him, who was the king's enemy; and this it was that came as the last storm, and entirely sunk the young men when they were in great danger before. For Salome came running to the king, and informed him of what admonition had been given her; whereupon he could bear no longer, but commanded both the young men to be bound, and kept the one asunder from the other. He also sent Volumnius, the general of his army, to Caesar immediately, as also his friend Olympus with him, who carried the informations in writing along with them. Now as soon as they had sailed to Rome, and delivered the king's letters to Caesar, Caesar was mightily troubled at the case of the young men; yet did not he think he ought to take the power from the father of condemning his sons; so he wrote back to him, and appointed him to have the power over his sons; but said withal, that he would do well to make an examination into this matter of the plot against him in a public court, and to take for his assessors his own kindred, and the governors of the province. And if those sons be found guilty, to put them to death; but if they appear to have thought of no more than flying away from him, that he should moderate their punishment.
2. With these directions Herod complied, and came to Berytus, where Caesar had ordered the court to be assembled, and got the judicature together. The presidents sat first, as Caesar's letters had appointed, who were Saturninus and Pedanius, and their lieutenants that were with them, with whom was the procurator Volumnius also; next to them sat the king's kinsmen and friends, with Salome also, and Pheroras; after whom sat the principal men of all Syria, excepting Archelaus; for Herod had a suspicion of him, because he was Alexander's father-in-law. Yet did not he produce his sons in open court; and this was done very cunningly, for he knew well enough that had they but appeared only, they would certainly have been pitied; and if withal they had been suffered to speak, Alexander would easily have answered what they were accused of; but they were in custody at Platane, a village of the Sidontans.
3. So the king got up, and inveighed against his sons, as if they were present; and as for that part of the accusation that they had plotted against him, he urged it but faintly, because he was destitute of proofs; but he insisted before the assessors on the reproaches, and jests, and injurious carriage, and ten thousand the like offenses against him, which were heavier than death itself; and when nobody contradicted him, he moved them to pity his case, as though he had been condemned himself, now he had gained a bitter victory against his sons. So he asked every one's sentence, which sentence was first of all given by Saturninus, and was this: That he condemned the young men, but not to death; for that it was not fit for him, who had three sons of his own now present, to give his vote for the destruction of the sons of another. The two lieutenants also gave the like vote; some others there were also who followed their example; but Volumnius began to vote on the more melancholy side, and all those that came after him condemned the young men to die, some out of flattery, and some out of hatred to Herod; but none out of indignation at their crimes. And now all Syria and Judea was in great expectation, and waited for the last act of this tragedy; yet did nobody, suppose that Herod would be so barbarous as to murder his children: however, he carried them away to Tyre, and thence sailed to Cesarea, and deliberated with himself what sort of death the young men should suffer.
4. Now there was a certain old soldier of the king's, whose name was Tero, who had a son that was very familiar with and a friend to Alexander, and who himself particularly loved the young men. This soldier was in a manner distracted, out of the excess of the indignation he had at what was doing; and at first he cried out aloud, as he went about, that justice was trampled under foot; that truth was perished, and nature confounded; and that the life of man was full of iniquity, and every thing else that passion could suggest to a man who spared not his own life; and at last he ventured to go to the king, and said, "Truly I think thou art a most miserable man, when thou hearkenest to most wicked wretches, against those that ought to be dearest to thee; since thou hast frequently resolved that Pheroras and Salome should be put to death, and yet believest them against thy sons; while these, by cutting off the succession of thine own sons, leave all wholly to Antipater, and thereby choose to have thee such a king as may be thoroughly in their own power. However, consider whether this death of Antipater's brethren will not make him hated by the soldiers; for there is nobody but commiserates the young men; and of the captains, a great many show their indignation at it openly." Upon his saying this, he named those that had such indignation; but the king ordered those men, with Tero himself and his son, to be seized upon immediately.
5. At which time there was a certain barber, whose name was Trypho. This man leaped out from among the people in a kind of madness, and accused himself, and said, "This Tero endeavored to persuade me also to cut thy throat with my razor, when I trimmed thee, and promised that Alexander should give me large presents for so doing." When Herod heard this, he examined Tero, with his son and the barber, by the torture; but as the others denied the accusation, and he said nothing further, Herod gave order that Tero should be racked more severely; but his son, out of pity to his father, promised to discover the whole to the king, if he would grant [that his father should be no longer tortured]. When he had agreed to this, he said that his father, at the persuasion of Alexander, had an intention to kill him. Now some said this was forged, in order to free his father from his torments; and some said it was true.
6. And now Herod accused the captains and Tero in an assembly of the people, and brought the people together in a body against them; and accordingly there were they put to death, together with [Trypho] the barber; they were killed by the pieces of wood and the stones that were thrown at them. He also sent his sons to Sebaste, a city not far from Cesarea, and ordered them to be there strangled; and as what he had ordered was executed immediately, so he commanded that their dead bodies should be brought to the fortress Alexandrium, to be buried with Alexander, their grandfather by the mother's side. And this was the end of Alexander and Aristobulus.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
anyone led astray by it is unwise.
2 The dread of a king is like when a lion roars;
he who makes him angry commits a life-threatening sin.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Receiving one’s self in the fires of sorrow
What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name.
--- John 12:27–29 (R.V.).
My attitude as a saint to sorrow and difficulty is not to ask that they may be prevented, but to ask that I may preserve the self God created me to be through every fire of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself in the fire of sorrow, He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.
We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to receive ourselves in its fires. If we try and evade sorrow, refuse to lay our account with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life; it is no use saying sorrow ought not to be. Sin and sorrow and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.
Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness, but it does not always make a man better. Suffering either gives me my self or it destroys my self. You cannot receive your self in success, you lose your head; you cannot receive your self in monotony, you grouse. The way to find your self is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be so is another matter, but that it is so is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You always know the man who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, you are certain you can go to him in trouble and find that he has ample leisure for you. If a man has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, he has no time for you. If you receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Muslim Festival at Algiers
People: their combs and wattles
rampant upon a background
of dung. The dancers silently
crackling on an unquenced hearth.
A mosque, a tower as deputies
in the clouds' absence; and gazind,
as at a window, the detached
ocean with its ceruean stare
The wicked are controlled by their hearts … but the righteous control their hearts.
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 8:15–21 / God spoke to Noah, saying, “Come out of the ark, together with your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds, animals, and everything that creeps on the earth; and let them swarm on the earth and be fertile and increase on earth.” So Noah came out, together with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives. Every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that stirs on earth came out of the ark by families. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking of every clean animal and of every clean bird, he offered burnt offerings on the altar. The Lord smelled the pleasing odor, and the Lord said to Himself: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living being, as I have done.”
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 34, 10 / And the Lord said to Himself [lit. “said to His heart”], The wicked are controlled by their hearts: “The villain thinks” [lit., says in his heart] (Psalm 14:1, authors’ translation). “And Esau said to himself” [lit., in his heart] (Genesis 27:41). “Jeroboam said to himself” [lit., in his heart] (1 Kings 12:26). “Haman said to himself” [lit., in his heart] (Esther 6:6). But the righteous control their hearts: “Now Hannah was praying to herself” [lit., to her heart] (1 Samuel 1:13, authors’ translation). “David said to himself” [lit., to his heart] (1 Samuel 27:1). “Daniel resolved” [lit., put it to heart] (Daniel 1:8). “And the Lord said to Himself” [lit., to His heart].
CONTEXT / The Book of Genesis, especially the early chapters, which describe the Creation story and its aftermath, is filled with anthropomorphisms. God’s actions are described in human terms. When the text says that Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of day” (Genesis 3:8), one might think that God was out for an Evening stroll. God also shows human emotions:
And the Lord God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!” So the Lord God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken.
These two human characteristics—actions and emotions—are used to describe God’s reaction to Noah’s post-flood sacrifice:
The Lord smelled the pleasing odor, and the Lord said to Himself.…
God talks and smells. God reacts and is pleased.
The Rabbis were puzzled by the wording of the phrase translated as “the Lord said to Himself.” In the Hebrew, the Lord “spoke to His heart.” Knowing all of the Bible by heart, the Rabbis of the Midrash knew that two phrases recur throughout Scripture. Sometimes, a person speaks בַּלֵּב, “in the heart,” while others speak אֶל הַלֵּב or עַל הַלֵּב, “to the heart” or “on the heart.” The Rabbis were able to generalize: The wicked speak in their hearts, while the righteous speak with (that is, to or on) their hearts. Thus, the villain says in his heart, or thinks, “God does not care” (Psalm 14:1). Three specific biblical characters speak in their hearts: Esau, the wicked brother of Jacob; Jeroboam, the rabble-rouser who caused a split among the Jewish people and led the ten northern tribes away from Rehoboam’s rule to form the kingdom of Israel; and Haman, the evil character in the Purim story.
At the same time, the Rabbis noted that in referring to the righteous, the Bible doesn’t use the term “speak in the heart” but “to/on the heart.” They cite four examples: Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who went to Eli the priest at Shiloh to pray for a son; David, who sought to avoid confrontation with King Saul; Daniel, the hero of that cryptic book bearing his name; and God, who promises never to destroy the world again and therefore acts with righteousness and kindness to humanity.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Prayer For Relief
1.c. The expression is usually translated as “for the memorial offering” (RSV), or “to bring to remembrance” (KJV), or “for remembrance” (NAB), and is also found in the heading of Psalm 38. The expression may refer to the azkarah sacrifice (Lev 2:2, 9, 16, 5:12; 6:8 ; 24:7; Num 5:26), perhaps, a “memorial portion” (the part of the offering which was burned) (1) to remind God of the person who offered it and/or (2) as a pledge or token of the worshiper and commitment to the whole offering as owed to God, though most of it would be consumed by the priests or others. Thus, the use of lchazkir in the titles of Psalm 38 and 70 may refer (1) to the Psalms as appropriate for chanting while the sacrificial act of azkarah took place, or (2) to remind Yahweh of the distress of the worshiper.
The two ideas may be complementary, though the idea of “bring to remembrance” seems more appropriate for Psalm 70.
W. W. Wiersbe
"The question is usually asked in Old Testament survey classes, “Was the great fish more relieved to be rid of Jonah than Jonah was to get out of the great fish?” Maybe their sense of relief was mutual. At any rate, we hope that Jonah gave thanks to God for the divinely provided creature that rescued him from certain death.
In these two chapters, we are confronted with four marvels that we dare not take for granted:
1. The Marvel of an Undeserved Commission
Did anybody see Jonah emerge when the great fish disgorged him on the dry land? If so, the story must have spread rapidly and perhaps even preceded him to Nineveh, and that may help explain the reception the city gave him. Had Jonah been bleached by the fish’s gastric juices? Did he look so peculiar that nobody could doubt who he was and what had happened to him? Since Jonah was a “sign” to the Ninevites (Matt. 12:38–41), perhaps this included the way he looked.
What the people saw or thought really wasn’t important. The important thing was what God thought and what He would do next to His repentant prophet. “The life of Jonah cannot be written without God,” said Charles Spurgeon; “take God out of the prophet’s history, and there is no history to write.” (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament: The Prophets
God met Jonah. We don’t know where the great fish deposited Jonah, but we do know that wherever Jonah was, the Lord was there. Remember, God is more concerned about His workers than He is about their work, for if the workers are what they ought to be, the work will be what it ought to be. Throughout Jonah’s time of rebellion, God was displeased with His servant, but He never once deserted him. It was God who controlled the storm, prepared the great fish, and rescued Jonah from the deep. His promise is, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5, NKJV; see Josh 1:5). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isa. 43:2, NKJV).
God spoke to Jonah. After the way Jonah had stubbornly refused to obey God’s voice, it’s a marvel that the Lord spoke to him at all. Jonah had turned his back on God’s word, so the Lord had been forced to speak to him through thunder and rain and a stormy sea. But now that Jonah had confessed his sins and turned back to the Lord, God could once again speak to him through His word. One of the tests of our relationship to God is, “Does God speak to me as I read and ponder His Word?” If we don’t hear God speaking to us in our hearts, perhaps we have some unfinished business that needs to be settled with Him.
God commissioned Jonah. “The victorious Christian life, “ said George H. Morrison, “is a series of new beginnings.” When we fall, the enemy wants us to believe that our ministry is ended and there’s no hope for recovery, but our God is the God of the second chance. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (Jonah 3:1). “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8, NKJV).
You don’t have to read very far in your Bible to discover that God forgives His servants and restores them to ministry. Abraham fled to Egypt, where he lied about his wife, but God gave him another chance (Gen. 12:10–13:4). Jacob lied to his father Isaac, but God restored him and used him to build the nation of Israel. Moses killed a man (probably in self-defense) and fled from Egypt, but God called him to be the leader of His people. Peter denied the Lord three times, but Jesus forgave him and said, “Follow Me” (John 21:19).
However encouraging these examples of restoration may be, they must never be used as excuses for sin. The person who says, “I can go ahead and sin, because I know the Lord will forgive me” has no understanding of the awfulness of sin or the holiness of God. “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Ps. 130:4, NKJV). God in His grace forgives our sins, but God in His government determines that we shall reap what we sow, and the harvest can be very costly. Jonah paid dearly for rebelling against the Lord.
God challenged Jonah. Four times in this book, Nineveh is called a “great city” (1:2; 3:2–3; 4:11), (“Great” is one of the key words in the Book of Jonah. Besides a “great city,” the book mentions a great wind and tempest (1:4, 12); great fear (vv. 10, 16); a great fish (v. 17); great people, probably nobles (3:5, 7); and Jonah’s great displeasure and great gladness (4:1–6).) and archeologists tell us that the adjective is well-deserved. It was great in history, having been founded in ancient times by Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod (Gen. 10:8–10). (Some date Nineveh’s founding as early as 4500 B.C.) It was also great in size. The circumference of the city and its suburbs was sixty miles, and from the Lord’s statement in Jonah 4:11, we could infer that there were probably over 600,000 people living there. One wall of the city had a circumference of eight miles and boasted 1,500 towers.
The city was great in splendor and influence, being one of the leading cities of the powerful Assyrian Empire. It was built near the Tigris River and had the Khoser River running through it. (This fact will prove to be important when we study the Book of Nahum.) Its merchants traveled the empire and brought great wealth into the city, and Assyria’s armies were feared everywhere.
Nineveh was great in sin, for the Assyrians were known far and wide for their violence, showing no mercy to their enemies. They impaled live victims on sharp poles, leaving them to roast to death in the desert sun; they beheaded people by the thousands and stacked their skulls up in piles by the city gates; and they even skinned people alive. They respected neither age nor sex and followed a policy of killing babies and young children so they wouldn’t have to care for them (Nahum 3:10).
It was to the wicked people of this great city that God sent His servant Jonah, assuring him that He would give him the message to speak. After making the necessary preparations, it would take Jonah at least a month to travel from his own land to the city of Nineveh, and during that trip, he had a lot of time available to meditate on what the Lord had taught him.
The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you and the power of God can’t use you. “And who is sufficient for these things? … Our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 2:16 and 3:5).)
“The sword of the Israelite is, after all, only a more acute form of the problem that meets us in the providential employment, in even more horrible forms, of the sword of the Assyrian, the Chaldean, or Roman, to inflict the judgment threatened of God on Israel itself. Yet only a little reflection is needed to show that, if the world is to be upheld, governed, and judged at all, it is only in some such way that even the Holiest can govern and judge it. As Paul says, in repelling the objection that God is unrighteous in taking vengeance for sins which He has overruled for His own glory: ‘God forbid; for then how shall God judge the world?’”
Professor Orr points out, * that at whatever point revelation begins, it takes man up at the stage at which it finds him. The nation of Israel at the time of the Exodus was in a more rudimentary state than in later periods of its history, but the revelation God gave to it was both compatible with Divine righteousness and suitable to the conditions of the nation at the time. Again, revelation, while dealing with circumstances as they exist at the time, leads on to something further, which is to be unfolded according to the divine counsels. This accounts for the vast difference between the revelations given by Christ and His apostles in relation to the Gospel and the Church, and those of the preceding age in connection with Israel. “Revelation, without parting with anything of its reality or authority, is, in the truest sense, an organic process—a growing from less to more, with adaptation at every point to the state of development of its recipients—a light shining often in a dark place, but still shining more and more unto the perfect day. Its higher stages criticize, if we may so speak, its lower; shed off temporary elements; disengage principles from the imperfect forms in which they are embodied, and give them more perfect expression; yet unfailingly conserve, and take up into the new form, every element of permanent value in the old. Prophecy does not let fall one element that was of permanent value in the law; Christianity conserves every jot and tittle of the spiritual content of both law and prophets.” * As to the imprecatory Psalms, obviously the language of vengeance and retribution is impossible for Church use, nor is there a shadow of evidence that such was the divine intention. It is due to a most unhappy confusion that such Psalms should have been appointed for the worship of the Christian Church. The arrangements of divine providence in connection with Israel under the Law are quite distinct from those relating to the Church in the present age. Paul’s argument in the Epistle to the Romans that God is not unrighteous in visiting with wrath (Rom. 3:5, 6) has a bearing on the subject. If it is consistent with the character of God that He executes punishment on the ungodly, it cannot be inconsistent for those who live in a period when divine retribution is being meted out to use such language as is in keeping with it. The present era is not an age of vengeance, and therefore the use of imprecatory Psalms is wholly out of place now. But it was not so in the age prior to the Gospel, nor again will it be so in the time spoken of by the apostle Paul as that of “wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).
It must be borne in mind, too, that Christ Himself upon occasion used language similar to that of the Psalms in question. As Archbishop Alexander has said, “It may be plausible to deny, not without bitter indignation, the Messianic application of the 110th Psalm, or the subjectively Messianic character of the 69th or 109th Psalm, on the ground that imprecation can never issue from those gentle lips; that themes of carnage have nothing in common with the Messiah of the New Testament. Yet, after all, who uttered the sentence, ‘Those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay before Me’? Who is to say, ‘Depart from Me ye cursed,’ ‘Depart from Me all ye workers of iniquity,’ in the words of the 6th Psalm?
“No passage in the Psalms has given more offense than that which comes at the close of the 137th Psalm:
“‘O daughter of Babylon, that art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock.’
“From the point of view of the Psalmist this language has a tone of distress in it, as if he longed to say something else. There is certainly no vindictive spirit, there is almost a lament that the daughter of Babylon should have brought such a fate upon herself. For the attentive student, the doom of Babylon hangs in the air of prophecy. We close the Psalter for a time, and after many days, as we draw near to the end of the whole volume of revelation, we are startled by a new echo of the words of the old 137th Psalm, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen. Reward her even as she rewarded you; and double unto her according to her works.”’
Dr. Alexander rightly says concerning the solemn utterances of Christ, “These passages… are correlatives of the doctrine of retribution. They are spoken, if we conceive rightly, by One who expresses, as far as human language can, the doom which is the sure decree of the Governor of the world. Unless it is wrong and incredible that God should punish terribly, it is not wrong or incredible that His Son should give warning of it in the most vivid and impressive way.” In similar manner the apostle Paul, speaking of the Second Advent, describes it as a time when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven “in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the Gospel” (2 Thess. 1:8), and that “it is a righteous thing for God to recompense affliction to them that afflict”
Wherever this kind of sentiment is expressed by the writers of Scripture, the underlying motive is not vindictiveness against personal enemies, but antagonism against the enemies of God, enemies upon whom a divine sentence of wrath has been passed.
Does v7 make you think of Jesus calming the sea? (Mat 8:26-27) Even today we are unable to control the sea. Technology has many boasts, but not this one. God's power over the sea is mentioned several times in Scripture.
(Job 38:8; Prov. 8:29; Isa. 50:2; 51:10; Jer. 5:22, etc.). My favorite passage is not found in the Bible, as we know it, but in [NRS Wisdom 14:3-4 .
but it is your providence, O Father,
that steers its course,
because you have given it a path in the sea,
and a safe way through the waves,
4 showing that you can save from every danger,
so that even a person who lacks skill may put to sea.]
Even a person who lacks skill ... I love that! With so many passages about God being able to tame the sea, is it no wonder the disciples were so excited and raised the question among themselves.
8 They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs;
You make the outgoings of the Morning and Evening rejoice.
9 You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
10 You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
Jehovah of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. --- Psalm 46:7, 11 ASV
“Jehovah of hosts,” the unpronounceable name, the incommunicable name, the name that stood as the sign and symbol of the infinite things of God. (Classic RS Thomas on the Names of God (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) Jehovah was the name that most forcefully gave expression to the facts concerning God that were beyond human comprehension—his absoluteness, without beginning, without end, without counsel taken, without forethought—for there was no thought before him—Jehovah.
This phrase, “Jehovah of hosts,” teaches us that Jehovah is absolute, sufficient, and superior. It declares to us that God is the Lord of the heavens and all their inhabitants.
As the phrase passes our lips we are amid the eternal expanse, the unfallen intelligences—the vision of any one of which would blind us. And suddenly we move to the earth. The stars grow dim until they are but flecks [in the] night; the angels pass from our vision and we are on one small planet, in one small country looking into the face of one lonely man—Jacob. The psalmist says that the God who is the God of all the hosts is the God of that individual, as surely and positively interested in that one speck of thinking life as in all the unfallen intelligences of the upper spaces—as surely and as positively committed to that man as to all the order of the infinite universe.
Of all people for astute, hard-driving meanness, recommend to me Jacob. But God is “the God of Jacob.” Oh, my soul, here find your comfort! I do not know whether it helps you, but it helps me. He is the God of Jacob, mean as Jacob was. This is the thing on which my faith fastens. Was that man such a person as I am? The longer I live the more astonished I am at that infinite grace that found me and loves me and keeps me. The meanness that lurks within, the possibilities of evil that I have discovered make me ask, “Will God look at me?” He is “the God of Jacob.” He was his God and loved him notwithstanding all his meanness, led him, told him where to rest his head.
Notwithstanding the failure and wreckage of this life, despite that it is anything but what God meant it to be, that in its attempts to create its own destiny has led itself into blight and vain ambition, yet the inspiring word comes to me—“the God of Jacob.” He has created us, and we have broken all his laws, but he is our God still and broods over us tenderly, our folly notwithstanding.
--- G. Campbell Morgan
“Gipsy” Smith June 25
Audiences never tired of hearing Rodney Smith tell his story: I was born on the 31st of March, 1860, in a gipsy tent, the son of Cornelius Smith. When I got old enough to ask questions about my birth my mother was dead, but my father told me the place, though not the date. It was only recently that I knew the date. I discovered I was a year younger than I took myself to be.
It was while imprisoned for debts that Cornelius heard the Gospel. Later he took his children to Latimer Road Mission where, as worshipers sang There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood, he suddenly fell unconscious to the floor. Soon he jumped up, shouting, “I am converted! Children, God has made a new man of me!” Rodney ran from the church terrified.
But at age 16 Rodney attended a Methodist meeting, went forward, and prayed for Christ to come into his own heart. Someone nearby whispered, “Oh, it’s only a gipsy boy.” But Rodney, undeterred, acquired a Bible, taught himself to read, and began preaching. His efforts came to the attention of General William Booth, and on June 25, 1877, Rodney attended a Salvation Army meeting. The general recognized him and said, “The next speaker will be the gipsy boy.”Trembling, I took my way to the platform, which, luckily, was only five or six steps off. When I reached it I shook in every limb. Mr. Booth saw I was in a predicament and said, “Will you sing us a solo?” I said, “I will try, sir”; and that night I sang my first solo at a big public meeting.
After his solo, Rodney coughed nervously and said, I am only a gipsy boy. I do not know what you know about many things, but I know Jesus. I know that He has saved me. I cannot read as you do; I do not live in a house as you do; I live in a tent. But I have got a great house up yonder, and some day I am going to live in it. My great desire is to live for Christ.
Thus began 70 years of remarkable, world-renowned evangelistic work.
Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ. All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life.
--- Philippians 3:8,10a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 25
“Get thee up into the high mountain.” --- Isaiah 40:9.
Our knowledge of Christ is somewhat like climbing one of our Welsh mountains. When you are at the base you see but little: the mountain itself appears to be but one-half as high as it really is. Confined in a little valley, you discover scarcely anything but the rippling brooks as they descend into the stream at the foot of the mountain. Climb the first rising knoll, and the valley lengthens and widens beneath your feet. Go higher, and you see the country for four or five miles round, and you are delighted with the widening prospect. Mount still, and the scene enlarges; till at last, when you are on the summit, and look east, west, north, and south, you see almost all England lying before you. Yonder is a forest in some distant county, perhaps two hundred miles away, and here the sea, and there a shining river and the smoking chimneys of a manufacturing town, or the masts of the ships in a busy port. All these things please and delight you, and you say, “I could not have imagined that so much could be seen at this elevation.” Now, the Christian life is of the same order. When we first believe in Christ we see but little of him. The higher we climb the more we discover of his beauties. But who has ever gained the summit? Who has known all the heights and depths of the love of Christ which passes knowledge? Paul, when grown old, sitting grey-haired, shivering in a dungeon in Rome, could say with greater emphasis than we can, “I know whom I have believed,” for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like ascending another summit, and his death seemed like gaining the top of the mountain, from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of him to whom he had committed his soul. Get thee up, dear friend, into the high mountain.
Evening - June 25
"The dove found no rest for the sole of her foot." --- Genesis 8:9.
Reader, can you find rest apart from the ark, Christ Jesus? Then be assured that your religion is vain. Are you satisfied with anything short of a conscious knowledge of your union and interest in Christ? Then woe unto you. If you profess to be a Christian, yet find full satisfaction in worldly pleasures and pursuits, your profession is false. If your soul can stretch herself at rest, and find the bed long enough, and the coverlet broad enough to cover her in the chambers of sin, then you are a hypocrite, and far enough from any right thoughts of Christ or perception of his preciousness. But if, on the other hand, you feel that if you could indulge in sin without punishment, yet it would be a punishment of itself; and that if you could have the whole world, and abide in it for ever, it would be quite enough misery not to be parted from it; for your God—your God—is what your soul craves after; then be of good courage, thou art a child of God. With all thy sins and imperfections, take this to thy comfort: if thy soul has no rest in sin, thou are not as the sinner is! If thou art still crying after and craving after something better, Christ has not forgotten thee, for thou hast not quite forgotten him. The believer cannot do without his Lord; words are inadequate to express his thoughts of him. We cannot live on the sands of the wilderness, we want the manna which drops from on high; our skin bottles of creature confidence cannot yield us a drop of moisture, but we drink of the rock which follows us, and that rock is Christ. When you feed on him your soul can sing, “He hath satisfied my mouth with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” but if you have him not, your bursting wine vat and well-filled barn can give you no sort of satisfaction: rather lament over them in the words of wisdom, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”
Morning and Evening
O HAPPY DAY
Philip Doddridge, 1702–1751
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10)
It is always encouraging to share in a testimonial service by recalling with other believers the time we responded to God’s loving invitation for personal salvation. To remember what we were, how we were going, and where we could be today had not God encountered us is truly an important spiritual activity. But we must also be quick to note that the “happy day” of our new birth was never intended to be the final goal for our lives. Rather it was the starting point for developing a Christ-like life and an endless fellowship with our Lord.
Along with Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, Philip Doddridge is generally ranked as one of England’s finest 18th century hymn writers. “O Happy Day,” a text which expresses so aptly the sense of joy in a personal relationship with God, is Doddridge’s best-known hymn today. The hymn first appeared without the refrain in the 1775 collection of Doddridge’s writings, published posthumously, as were all of his 400 hymn texts. The music did not appear for nearly 100 years after the text. It was likely adapted from one of the popular secular tunes of that time.
O happy day that fixed my choice on Thee, my Savior and my God! Well may this glowing heart rejoice and tell its raptures all abroad.
O happy bond that seals my vows to Him who merits all my love! Let cheerful anthems fill His house, while to that sacred shrine I move.
High Heav’n that heard the solemn vow, that vow renewed shall daily hear; till in life’s latest hour I bow, and bless in death a bond so dear.
’Tis done, the great transaction’s done—I am my Lord’s and He is mine; He drew me, and I followed on, charmed to confess the voice divine.
Now rest, my long-divided heart, fixed on this blissful center, rest; nor ever from my Lord depart, with Him of ev’ry good possessed.
Chorus: Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away! He taught me how to watch and pray and live rejoicing ev’ry day; happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
For Today: Psalm 32:11; 70:4; Habakkuk 3:18; Philippians 4:4; 1 John 1:8, 9.
Share with someone your conversion experience—the events that prompted the decision when you first fully realized that you were truly God’s child. Carry this musical testimony with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXVI. — We now come to the NEW TESTAMENT, where again, are marshalled up in defence of that miserable bondage of “Free-will,” an host of imperative sentences, together with all the auxiliaries of carnal reason, such as, conclusions, similitudes, &c., called in from all quarters. And if you ever saw represented in a picture, or imagined in a dream, a king of flies attended by his forces armed with lances and shields of straw or hay, drawn up in battle array against a real and complete army of veteran warriors — it is just thus, that the human dreams of the Diatribe are drawn up in battle array against the hosts of the words of God!
First of all, marches forth in front, that of Matt. xxiii. 37-39, as it were the Achilles of these flies, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not.” — “If all things be done from necessity (says the Diatribe) might not Jerusalem here have justly said in reply to the Lord, Why dost thou weary thyself with useless tears? If thou didst not will that we should kill the prophets, why didst thou send them? Why dost thou lay that to our charge, which, from will in thee, was done of necessity by us?” — thus the Diatribe. —
I answer: Granting in the mean time that this conclusion and proof of the Diatribe is good and true, what, I ask, is proved thereby? — that ‘probable opinion,’ which affirms that “Freewill” cannot will good? Nay, the will is proved to be free, whole, and able to do all things which the prophets have spoken; and such a will the Diatribe never intended to prove. But let the Diatribe here reply to itself. If “Free-will” cannot will good, why is it laid to its charge, that it did not hear the prophets, whom, as they taught good, it could not hear by its own powers? Why does Christ in useless tears weep over those as though they could have willed that, which He certainly knew they could not will? Here, I say, let the Diatribe free Christ from the imputation of madness, according to its ‘probable opinion,’ and then my opinion is immediately set free from that Achilles of the flies. Therefore, that passage of Matthew either forcibly proves “Free-will” altogether, or makes with equal force against the Diatribe itself, and strikes it prostrate with its own weapon!
But I here observe as I have observed before, that we are not to dispute concerning that SECRET WILL of the divine Majesty; and that, that human temerity, which, with incessant perverseness, is ever leaving those things that are necessary, and attacking and trying this point, is to be called off and driven back, that it employ not itself in prying into those secrets of Majesty which it is impossible to attain unto, seeing that, they dwell in that light which is inaccessible; as Paul witnesseth. (1 Tim. vi. 16.) But let the man acquaint himself with the God Incarnate, or, as Paul saith, with Jesus crucified, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge — but hidden! for in Him, there is an abundance both of that which he ought to know, and of that which he ought not to know.
The God Incarnate, then, here speaks thus — “I WOULD and THOU WOULDST NOT!” The God Incarnate, — I say, was sent for this purpose — that He might desire, speak, do, suffer, and offer unto all, all things that are necessary unto salvation, although He should offend many, who, being either left or hardened by that secret will of Majesty, should not receive Him thus desiring, speaking, doing, and offering: as John i. 5, saith, “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” And again, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (11.) It belongs also to this same God Incarnate, to weep, to lament, and to sigh over the perdition of the wicked, even while that will of Majesty, from purpose, leaves and reprobates some, that they might perish. Nor does it become us to inquire why He does so, but to revere that God who can do, and wills to do, such things.
Nor do I suppose that any one will cavillingly deny, that that will which here saith, “How often would I!” was displayed to the Jews, even before God became Incarnate; seeing that, they are accused of having slain the prophets, before Christ, and having thus resisted His will. For it is well known among Christians, that all things were done by the prophets in the name of Christ to come, who was promised that He should become Incarnate: so that, whatever has been offered unto men by the ministers of the word from the foundation of the world, may be rightly called, the Will of Christ.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library